Bridgeport Casino Supporters Say Failed 2018 Push Will Be Renewed Next Legislative Session

Posted on: May 16, 2018, 11:00h. 

Last updated on: May 16, 2018, 10:33h.

Backers of the failed Bridgeport casino in Connecticut say they’ll cross that bridge later.

Bridgeport casino Connecticut gambling
Mayor Joe Ganim, a candidate to become Connecticut’s next governor, says a Bridgeport casino is critical to revitalizing the city. (Image: Ned Gerard/Hearst Connecticut Media)

With the Connecticut General Assembly adjourned for 2018, an integrated casino resort (IR) in Bridgeport won’t be authorized before this year’s end. But that doesn’t mean advocates of gaming expansion to the seaport city are ending their efforts permanently.

Members of the Bridgeport state delegation that support gambling in the town met this week to express their optimism in their future legislative efforts. While the Bridgeport casino bill failed in the state Senate, supporters say its passage in the House of Representatives was a major victory.

“I have to admit, when we first put this piece of legislation in, it was a bit of a long shot,” State Rep. Christopher Rosario (D-Bridgeport) explained. “This just goes as a message to the General Assembly. We’re not going to quit. We’re not giving up.”

Bridgeport lawmakers were wooed by MGM Resorts, which presented the town with plans for a $700 million casino resort last year. Critics of the proposal say the casino company is simply trying to block progress at a satellite casino site in East Windsor, Connecticut, which is being built 13 miles from MGM Springfield in Massachusetts.

Under the Connecticut Constitution, the General Assembly faced a mandatory adjournment on May 9. It is to reconvene in January 2019.

Port in a Storm

The Bridgeport casino dilemma is in response to Connecticut’s General Assembly and Governor Dannel Malloy (D) passing legislation to allow the state’s two tribes to jointly construct the East Windsor satellite casino. MGM sued the state on grounds that it failed to hold an open and competitive bidding process, and argued it essentially authorized commercial gaming.

The Mashantucket Pequots and Mohegan Sun tribes, working together as a venture known as MMCT, are in the early stages of constructing their facility on off-sovereign land. The venue is to incorporate 2,000 slot machines, up to 150 table games, and little else.

MGM says that’s a bad deal for the state. Many Bridgeport lawmakers have agreed.

Under the 2018 session casino measure, both commercial and tribal gaming operators would be welcomed to present blueprints. A minimum investment of $500 million would be required, along with a $50 million licensing fee.

Conversely, MMCT paid just $2 million for their East Windsor permit.

“It’s time that Connecticut has an open, transparent and honest process and discussion about casino gaming,” State Rep. Steven Stafstrom (D-Bridgeport) said this week. “I don’t understand how we can have that conversation until we’ve allowed any and all interested bidders to lay their cards on the table.”

Springfield Opening

MGM’s $960 million IR in Springfield will open its doors on August 24.

The East Windsor casino gained widespread support in hopes of keeping critical gaming tax revenue from flowing north across the Connecticut-Massachusetts border. The earliest the tribal facility should be expected to open now is late 2019, Mohegan Sun Chairman Kevin Brown said recently.

That’s a major win for MGM Resorts, which will presumably attract patrons from northern Connecticut. With Bridgeport casino advocates vowing to reignite their fight in 2019, further delays could be placed on the East Windsor facility.